Cade Cunningham Is on His Way to Superstardom and Giving a Rundown Detroit Pistons Franchise Real Hope for the First Time in 14 Years

The Detroit Pistons have made the playoffs three times since the 2007-08 season. They were swept each time.

That ’07-08 campaign was the final run for Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and company.

But with the infusion of the 2021 NBA Draft’s No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham, Pistons fans can finally allow themselves to hope for the first time in 14 years.

Cade is on his way to becoming an NBA superstar

Cade Cunningham is giving the Detroit Pistons legitimate hope for the first time in 14 years.
Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons reacts during the third quarter of a game against the Denver Nuggets. | Ethan Mito/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images

Cunningham was No. 1 on The Ringer‘s Kevin O’Connor’s draft board from beginning to end during his lone collegiate season. His basketball IQ, unselfishness, playmaking, and leadership put up above any other prospect.

A 6-foot-8, 220-pound point guard, the Oklahoma State product could see over and between defenders to consistently make the right play. He was an “offensive orchestrator,” as O’Connor noted.

Although he was the best player in Stillwater and opposing teams game-planned to stop him, Cade also filled the stat sheet on his way to becoming the Big 12 Player of the Year. He averaged more than 20 points and added 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game for the Cowboys.

He also shot 41.2% from three, which wasn’t his expected specialty coming out of high school.

Those traits have all carried over to the NBA during his rookie season. After missing the preseason and first five games of the year, Cade has responded to average 16.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game.

Cunningham hasn’t been explosive or flashy. But he’s been a consistent leader and floor general, which is what the Pistons wanted when they selected him No. 1.

Cade Cunningham can finally allow Detroit Pistons fans to hope

According to RealGM, Detroit and then-franchise player Blake Griffin (yikes) made the playoffs in 2018-19 before being swept by the Milwaukee Bucks.

They also made it in 2015-16, where they were swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Then you have to go all the way back to the ’08-09 season when they were swept — again — by James and the Cavs.

The last competitive Pistons team came in ’07-08. That squad made the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the eventual-champion Boston Celtics.

Billups was traded for Allen Iverson that summer, and that was it for the 2000s Detroit pseudo-dynasty.

Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, and Andre Drummond were some of the franchise’s best first-round picks in the ensuing years, via Basketball Reference. The jury is still out on 2020’s No. 7 overall pick Killian Hayes.

But the Pistons have never brought in a franchise-altering talent like Cade.

The 20-year-old point guard already feels like he has the trust of his teammates, as he told James L. Edwards III of The Athletic:

“I’m happy with how much my teammates trust me with the ball, more than anything,” Cunningham said. “They want me to make plays for us, they want me to be aggressive.

“To have guys trust me with the ball, trust the work that I put in, that means a lot to me.”

Barely halfway through his rookie campaign, Cade has his teammates looking up to him and his franchise looking forward.

It may not be this year or next, but things are looking up for a downtrodden franchise

Cunningham scored 34 points on 14-of-26 shooting and was 6-of-9 from three in a Jan. 25 loss to the Denver Nuggets. He added eight assists, eight rebounds, and four blocks.

He’s averaging 17.9 points and 5.4 assists thus far in January and has increased his field-goal percentage to 45.5 and his 3-point percentage to 38.2 on 5.8 attempts a night.

Cade has become a more efficient go-to scorer in addition to his steady playmaking, which a lackluster Pistons roster sorely needs.

It’s no coincidence the team has won six games in January, including a win over the Bucks, after winning only four total in November and December.

“He’s a gamer,” said Detroit head coach Dwane Casey of his franchise cornerstone.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.

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